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The uncertain future of Architectural Software

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I am not capable of the deep analysis we read above, but I believe that Enscape is an example of a company that has made a huge leap in consolidating the need for rendering output from our various cad programs.  It pretty much works with all of them.  VW for the pc user at least could eliminate Renderworks, and other rendering tools except Open GL and focus on core issues like better design and drafting tools and plug in objects.   In other words the consolidation of tools as mentioned above is happening,  and the simple practitioners like me will just naturally without giving it much thought move on to those programs or you might say tools of our industry that make our work easier and more profitable.  It seems that VW with all its capabilites may just be one of the survivors.  

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22 hours ago, jmanganelli said:

You see, over time, AEC professionals figured out something fundamental about how to design, construct, and operate complex, dynamical systems. 

Related to the philosophical side of architecture, on the trxl podcast this week…

Special guest Reg Prentice joins the podcast to talk about the value of an architect, how and why we document decisions, the network effect, how designers are decision factories, and much more.

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/trxl/id1519377425?i=1000492068230

What caught my attention was Reg's description of an architect's role – that is, designers are decision makers that create certainty from uncertainty (and needing to be comfortable with uncertainty, which software / tools is a part of). And then he speaks of wicked vs tamed problems. Good stuff to help us understand the real issues of the architectural profession. 

 

21 hours ago, _c_ said:

We are already seeing the tectonic shift. Most professional users, fed up with waiting for things to fix, move to Archicad.

For Nemetschek this is no problem whatsoever. The problem is exquisitely our.

Yes, I feel this as, after many years, I have recently changed architectural firms, and nearly ended up using ArchiCAD. It is very hard for me to grow as an architect remaining on the Vectorworks Architect platform.

 

21 hours ago, _c_ said:

Mind, the Renderworks, Spotlight, ConnectCad parts etc. are, on the contrary, very beloved.

There is a direct relationship with the users, they listen and give back what's expected in humanly measurable times.

Knowing there are parts of Vectorworks that are taking such great leaps forward and are much beloved makes the Vw Architect product stagnation all the more challenging / frustrating.

I suspect this reflects the general stagnation of the architectural software space. If architects had clients / customers / suppliers / technologies forcing complex standards upon them (as lighting designers do), I think AEC software would be far more leading edge. Ironically much of the push to better solutions is coming from clients and developers requiring better project outcomes at the big end of town. But Vectorworks doesn't generally play in that space in Australia.

 

I am thankful for the increased stability of the last couple of releases. I hope now that those holes are plugged, Vectorworks Inc. can also plug the holes in tools that have been around for many years but have gone unloved. I would love see Vectorworks Inc. to take advantage of the industry discontent that Autodesk / Revit has created, and not to be lumped in with them as part of the problem.

 

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Thanks for this thread. It's nice to read something related to Vectorworks in a big picture way. I think it's also for us architects important to think about were we are headed and what the future should/might look like.

 

@Diamond Nice to hear from another TRXL listener. Even though I am sitting in germany and some of the topics are more us-centric, I still find it enlightening to hear the interviews and ideas expressed.

 

On 9/26/2020 at 8:13 AM, _c_ said:

We are already seeing the tectonic shift. Most professional users, fed up with waiting for things to fix, move to Archicad.

For Nemetschek this is no problem whatsoever. The problem is exquisitely our.

That's only part of problem. I talked to some people, who switched or are in the process. One big advantage of switching software is leaving old habits behind. Lots of offices start in 2D in Vectorworks and keep those habits. They are always tempted to fall back into this ingrained paterns, when the going gets hard. And it will get hard. The biggest factor to any change is the human factor. No matter if it's the software user (us) or the software developer (vw). And those young, skilled people all leave university knowing Revit or Archicad. They than constantly sing the praises of these software packages and are also the only ones willing to switch to 3D/BIM.

 

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On 9/27/2020 at 5:41 AM, Diamond said:

I would love see Vectorworks Inc. to take advantage of the industry discontent that Autodesk / Revit has created, and not to be lumped in with them as part of the problem.

Except that I don't get the impression they have actually been doing that so far.

 

When a few years ago Autodesk went subscription only and start to try smoking out those still on maintenance by increasing prices with double digit percentages I saw this as an opportunity to attract AutoCAD users if only they would fix some compatibility issues (text styles import/export being one of the big(ger) issues that still didn't get solved).

 

Especially because BricsCAD  was developing at neckbreak speed with its 3D and developing BIM and Mechanical on top of their base program and already being DWG compatible they could be one of the new competitors to VW on Mac when it comes to enticing disgruntled AutoCAD/Revit/etc. users. Gräbert from Germany is now also making serious efforts at BIM and they are also using the DWG format and present on Windows, Mac and Linux. BricsCAD is now part of Hexagon (in the same division as Intergraph). Anyone coming from Autodesk software may now be more enticed by the DWG based alternatives than by Vectorworks because some of the incompatibilities with DWG still haven't been solved, some have but not enough.

Vectorworks still has advantages over the DWG based competitors but the DWG based competitors are closing in and in some ways even surpass Vectorworks by now.

 

I really think they missed an opportunity for the long term here.


The CAD market is mostly stagnant, most of the growth comes from attracting customers away from their competitor CAD programs so VW can't afford to have too many of their users become disgruntled at the lack of development in some areas.

It will be interesting to see what will come up on October 6 with regard to VW's future and direction.

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Stumbled on this article: Link Very interesting read, especially about the AEC Delta Mobility project. It is puzzeling, that I can use a budgeting app on my smartphone and get my bank account synced in real time, because of an open api, but the same for our building models is not possible. There is so much potential for productivity gains and workflow improvements.

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The article is interesting when it comes to a perspective of interoperation/data compatibility/exchange through common APIs but that part about being in one app while a message from another app comes in and... app ....app ....app makes me feel this is a perspective from the app generation that doesn't mind apps having different GUI's and workflows. It also seems to be oriented towards the (very) big companies and not the small practices.

 

From a workflow perspective having to use multiple apps for different kinds of functionality seems detrimental in the long run because one keeps switching apps. Research has shown that this kind of workflow is actually less efficient, unless all apps adhere to a similar (G)UI and workflow and paradigms.

There are reasons why some CAD software works better for one and another CAD program works better for another.

 

I have read articles that Autodesk wants to go the CATIA way, no longer a file format but a database format that is proprietary and results in vendor lock-in. It is easy to get your data into CATIA but very difficult to get it out in way that is useful and efficient to be used in another program so people are not likely to switch from CATIA to something else. The same more or less applies to OnShape, as long as you are within OnShape it is all nice and dandy but once you want to get out you are left with mostly dumb files and lose quite a bit of functionality.

 

It is already possible to diff regular files, to avoid having to send the entire file over and over again, so to me the issue that needs to be solved is relatively simple... data and object definitions/geometry interoperability. e.g. when I import a 3D model from AutoCAD it should preferably be translated into the proper geometric equivalent of a VW object instead of a bunch of triangulated surfaces. BricsCAD already does it nicely when importing from e.g. SolidWorks it may not be able yet to use the constraints from SolidWorks but I can work with the 3D model without too many issues and re-parametrize it to create a functional mechanical model. It is far less messy than importing a 3D DWG into VW.

 

Then it doesn't matter what software you are using, as long as the data and geometry are interoperable and exchangeable/transferable without loss of information. Whether that is an app in the cloud or a big program on a local computer.

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Look at the bimstorm and seps2bim links above. Great work. They have made non proprietary, non-tool-specific ways to store project info and use them to populate bim and cad models with platform-independent project information. 

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1 hour ago, jmanganelli said:

Look at the bimstorm and seps2bim links above. Great work. They have made non proprietary, non-tool-specific ways to store project info and use them to populate bim and cad models with platform-independent project information. 

I'll read up on those later, but based on your post it seems to be mostly BIM oriented.

 

What e.g. BricsCAD (and probably Hexagon when they start integrating their products more and more) is doing is put everything into DWG, i.e. general 2D/3D, BIM and Mechanical so that you can develop e.g. a rolling stairway in BricsCAD as a fully mechanical model and integrate it in your BIM model of the building while having all data available within the same (set of) file(s) without translation issues that you would have between e.g. Inventor (rolling stairway) and Revit (building). Because Hexagon is also into manufacturing, measuring (GIS and measuring instruments for manufacturing as well as structural analysis software) etc. they may have an advantage over most branch specific software products that are not well integrated (e.g. Inventor/Revit). Whether this will hold ground against the developments you mentioned will of course remain to be seen.

 

One of the reasons I am using BricsCAD besides VW is that it can do general 2D/3D, BIM (though not yet as far as VW Architect), mechanical, Civil/GIS well enough to make it have an advantage over using multiple CAD programs aimed at mostly a single discipline. It may not in all aspects be the most efficient program but it is good enough for practical use and is still improving.

 

Siemens is probably in the same ballpark as Hexagon as it is also a huge manufacturing company active in a lot of areas unlike e.g. Autodesk and Bentley which definitely gives them an advantage. Dassault sits somewhere in the middle between Hexagon/Siemens on one end and Autodesk/Bentley on the other end.

 

Autodesk has bought a lot of their products instead of developing them themselves, which could/does explain the interoperability mess between their products. Though they seem to be working on a somewhat universal system as well, but it is taking them a long time to get this done. Their cloud attempts haven't been that successful yet. I'll try to find the online article on that. Given their market penetration they may have a chance if they are capable of deploying it in time to stay ahead.


Whatever the outcome will be, it will be an interesting time.

 

Edit:

Found the link for Autodesk's attempt to develop an interoperable platform:

https://architosh.com/2020/10/whats-beyond-revit-anagnost-on-autodesk-aec-futures/

Edited by Art V
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@Art V Seps2Bim is a space and equipment planning system that geolocates geometry --- anything.  It could be used for BIM but it could be used for a lot of things other than BIM.  Also very cool that the developers have done extensive implementation with the Veterans Affairs Administration, so the technology and workflow are well developed and tested.

 

The BIMSTORM information is kept in regular spreadsheets and databases, in some cases.  Very flexible.  Again, beyond BIM

 

These can also be used for asset management, operations and maintenance, and other usages.

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6 hours ago, Art V said:

It is already possible to diff regular files, to avoid having to send the entire file over and over again, so to me the issue that needs to be solved is relatively simple... data and object definitions/geometry interoperability. e.g. when I import a 3D model from AutoCAD it should preferably be translated into the proper geometric equivalent of a VW object instead of a bunch of triangulated surfaces. BricsCAD already does it nicely when importing from e.g. SolidWorks it may not be able yet to use the constraints from SolidWorks but I can work with the 3D model without too many issues and re-parametrize it to create a functional mechanical model. It is far less messy than importing a 3D DWG into VW.

That would be basically the final edition of ifc. At least I think that's what they are going for at building smart. But given the time it takes to develope a file format that is agreed upon by all parties involved and is natively translated by all programms/apps, we are already working in the cloud.

 

In terms of apps that are seemlessly interconnected via api, I agree with you that it will take a generational shift for it to become a standard workflow. May sound utopic. The problem with interrupted work is already happening between vectorworks, excel, email, telephone, photoshop, etc. We should programm an AI to take care of the important work so we can focus better on the distractions. 😉

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12 minutes ago, elepp said:

That would be basically the final edition of ifc. At least I think that's what they are going for at building smart. But given the time it takes to develope a file format that is agreed upon by all parties involved and is natively translated by all programms/apps, we are already working in the cloud.

Yes they are already working on that, there are two types of file formats for this that could be chose. ODA (Open Design Alliance) that is also responsible for the DWG, DGN and Revit libraries that VW and the DWG alternatives to AutoCAD are using, is working on this with Building Smart.

 

You can read more about that, if you want,  in this article: https://www.upfrontezine.com/2020/09/upf-1065.html

 

16 minutes ago, elepp said:

In terms of apps that are seemlessly interconnected via api, I agree with you that it will take a generational shift for it to become a standard workflow. May sound utopic. The problem with interrupted work is already happening between vectorworks, excel, email, telephone, photoshop, etc. We should programm an AI to take care of the important work so we can focus better on the distractions. 😉

Perhaps IBM's Blue is available for purchase by now? It should still be powerful enough to handle this and you could practice your chess playing skills along with the rest. 🙂

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I am asking myself,

if you create an Architectural (CAD) App today from scratch,

if it would be useful to build a design file system,

based or oriented on IFC ?

(Or USD for 3D)

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BTW IFC

 

larger, commercial offices may use IFC as intended,

as a Referencing Format so that any party can work in its appropriate Software

but to complete a holistic BIM Model controlled by a BIM supervisor and Management.

 

While we smaller offices and freelancers just misuse it as a exchange and import/export

format. (Because of missing reliable alternatives)

 

 

Currently my exchange test show that I need 3 VW exports to a DWG based Application.

 

1. DWG

Which brings out most geometry as true Solids

(beside Walls and other VW PIOs that tend to end as lose 3D Faces)

 

2. IFC2x3

Because it does lose the least amount of objects.

(While offering very lossy geometry and less Solids)

 

3. IFC4.0

Because it offers much better geometry, more true Solids, more features.

(but loses the most objects)

And was warned here from being used in production as not yet ready.

 

And manually combine the best of all back into a project.

 

(Mabe even 4. 3DM or 5. FBX to have the most resource to have a choice

between all individual export qualities)

 

 

So I hope for a (open source) future in BIM where we can exchange our work

and information, without any loss because of proprietary policies.

Edited by zoomer
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Return to ink on mylar and pin bar, join the revolution!

 

I could see it happen if all these software vendors don't figure out how to play nice.

That or something like the blender community will step up and fix the problem.

 

I have kept my drafting table and rapidographs just in case 🙂

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9 hours ago, zoomer said:

I am asking myself,

if you create an Architectural (CAD) App today from scratch,

if it would be useful to build a design file system,

based or oriented on IFC ?

(Or USD for 3D)

 

Put it on GIT or an other Subversion tool and multi-user is taken care of.

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6 hours ago, jeff prince said:

That or something like the blender community will step up and fix the problem.

The BlenderBIM Community is gaining traction. With all the positive publicity blender.org recieved lately no surprise. It could turn into a viable alternative.

 

 

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All I want at the moment is a file format I can send a client that he can read in 3D and comment on.  What should I use.  

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22 minutes ago, jmanganelli said:

what about a 3D pdf?

@Helm 3D PDF is what I have been using so for almost 10 years, the advantage is that all you need is the free Adobe Reader or another PDF reader that can view 3D PDF (Bluebeam Revu can do this as well, PDF Xchange to some extent as its view is still B/W in most cases that I have seen it used but they are working on it). Because most companies do have Adobe Reader installed this is by far the easiest way to share a 3D model. If you want you can include the file structure so that they can turn classes/layers on/off as desired.

 

Commenting on a PDF may be possible but it depends a bit on the PDF reader being used. For more extensive commenting one would probably need the full Adobe Acrobat or a version of Bluebeam Revu.

 

The ODA file viewer can view quite a bit of 3D formats, though 3D PDF unfortunately isn't one of those. It is free. But it would require to export the model to another 3D format and then you would be sending an editable file.

 

If you want a file that is a bit of a hassle to edit in another CAD/3D program but can viewed in a free and widely available and used viewer (Adobe Reader) then 3D PDF is probably your best option for now.

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